The holidays are over, and I am sure you’re putting
your houses back in order.
Getting my own home back in order is a Herculean task
right now. As I write this in early December, there are two burly
painters and one wiry plumber bustling about the place. It is Day One,
Hour One of a massive project. When they’re finished, I will enjoy newly
painted rooms, and a laundry/storage room on the main floor.
I’ve mentioned The Cursed Basement before. I hate my
basement. My dear late mother began storing “stuff” down there when she
moved here in 1991. It had, at that time, some semblance of
When I moved here in 1999, I was condensing nine rooms
into three — the new addition we built onto the existing house. Much of
the clutter and stuff from my old house, which included everything from
sterling silver and antique table lamps, to old toasters and tiny
tropical shorts I will never use again, went directly to the basement.
Suddenly, there was little semblance of organization.
And thus it has remained.
Back in the day, Mom and I easily navigated the steep
basement stairs to the washer and dryer. When Mom’s knees began to fail,
I lithely skipped downstairs for laundry duty.
Nowadays, I creep carefully to the basement with a
phone in my pocket.
I envision myself in a fallen, crumpled pile on the
concrete floor, lying there for weeks before someone finally stops by
and finds me. If the phone hasn’t flown from my pocket into scattered
pieces, I can call the rescue squad.
Thus, I am thrilled to turn my little former office
into a laundry and storage room.
As anyone who’s had their interior painted knows, it’s
a whole lot like moving. Every little thing — and I’ve got thousands of
them — must be taken down, dusted or washed, wrapped and stored
somewhere else. Then, it must be moved from wherever and placed where it
once was. If I can remember.
Today, I’m exhausted and my knees are screaming with
outrage. Clutter is rampant. Furniture is piled willy-nilly wherever it
will fit for the time being.
To prepare, I first tackled
the closets. I was in “purge” mode. I made four piles: keep, consign,
donate, trash. I was heartless with clothing and — believe it or not —
shoes. What woman really needs 142 pairs of fabulous shoes? Especially
when her knees won’t allow her to wear them anymore.
And the books! I had at least a thousand. Some I’ve
never read but meant to, others I’ve read but won’t read again. I kept
the collected works of Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey. I donated the
Grishams, the DeMilles, the Cusslers and the Cornwells. If I want to
revisit them, they’re waiting at the library.
Oh, the recycling I’ve done. Do I really need 10 years
of travel magazines? Face it, Margo: Your European travelling days are
over; your traipsing days are over. You will not be strolling through
Italy, or returning to France! Embracing sad truths: That’s the new me.
In preparation for the move, I decided to hoe out
every desk and dresser drawer. I think I wore out my shredder, but oh,
the treasures I encountered along the way.
Amongst 20 years of papers — and a writer keeps
thousands of papers, especially if she’s a pack rat who thinks she might
need something some day in the future — I found long-lost things I have
sought for ages. Scattered amidst 15-year-old
supervisors’ agendas and phone books from 1987 were these marvelous
finds: I discovered the Jarboe file, which delineates my heritage back
to 1619 in France. I found the photo of Daddy with LBJ, alighting from
the presidential helicopter. I cried to open the Christmas card “To a
Special Daughter,” with the notation “I am so proud of you. Love, Mom.”
I sort of cringed with guilt to run across the photo of myself
100 pounds ago in San Francisco. I found a pack of pix of myself and the
25 girlfriends who threw me a fabulous party when I had cancer. I sure
didn’t look sick that day!
I am in the midst of turmoil right now, but with the
help of three “rent-a-husbands,” my home will be perfectly ordered and
lovely to look at in almost no time. Then I can start collecting again!
To order Margo Oxendine’s A Party of One, email
firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 540-468-2147 Monday-Thursday from 9-5.